Archives

News
xgr-pride-400

Gay rights advocates rally at a recent Moral Monday demonstration.

Equality NC, same-sex couples and families delivered over 10,600 petitions to the Raleigh and regional offices of Governor Pat McCrory this morning, urging him to stop defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

“We are proud to deliver this important message alongside families from all across the state who are demanding Gov. McCrory not waste one taxpayer dollar defending what is now an unconstitutional and indefensible law,” said Chris Sgro, Equality NC’s executive director. “In doing so, we join them in asking that our elected officials not only stand with their constituents, but also help North Carolina stand on the right side of history.”

Last month, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced his office would no longer defend state laws banning same-sex marriage, after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in Bostic v. Schaeffer.

As the News & Observer points out in Wednesday’s paper, the petition drive by the advocacy organization may press McCrory to discuss his own position on same-sex marriage:

McCrory had asked Cooper to request a stay of North Carolina’s case pending a higher appeal of the Virginia lawsuit, which is now on hold.

But his stance leaves unanswered questions, Equality NC suggests: Does McCrory still personally support the amendment after the Virginia ruling? And will he seek a special outside counsel to uphold the state’s ban now that Cooper won’t defend it?

The questions may hold implications for the 2016 governor’s race when Cooper is expected to challenge McCrory.

McCrory supported North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage when it was placed on the ballot in May of 2012.

Since then, polls have shown a growing acceptance of this issue with a majority of voters (nationwide and in North Carolina) supporting either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couple.

For more on where things stand in the courts on same-sex marriage, read this piece by Policy Watch’s Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey.

Uncategorized

marriage amendmentThe Fourth Circuit today denied a request by parties defending Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban to stay the court’s ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer pending a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On July 28 the court held that the Virginia law was unconstitutional and entered judgement on that date. The ruling is scheduled to go into effect on August 18, 2014.

Michèle B. McQuigg, the  Prince William County Clerk of Circuit Court and a defendant in Bostic, told the court that she intends to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court by October 26, 2014, and asked that implementation of the ruling be stayed in the meantime, citing the potential of confusion and inconsistent results:

The absence of a stay will likely produce legal uncertainty and confusion. The Utah marriage case serves as a useful example. In Utah, after the district court struck down the state’s marriage laws, the district court and the Tenth Circuit declined to issue a stay.  As a result, many same-sex couples in Utah obtained marriage licenses pursuant to the district court’s injunction. Days later, however, the Supreme Court stayed the injunction, and Utah’s man-woman marriage laws went back into effect. Thus, the State of Utah now declines to recognize the licenses that were issued to same-sex couples during that interim period.

Same-sex couples who obtained licenses during that period filed a lawsuit in federal court to require the State to recognize those licenses as valid. The district court held that the interim licenses must be recognized, but the Supreme Court again stayed that decision pending appellate resolution. Thus, the validity of those licenses is still in limbo.

For more on the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Bostic, read here.

Uncategorized

At yesterday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on the future of marriage equality, Chris Brook, the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, made it pretty clear what he intends to argue in federal court when he next gets the opportunity in the organization’s challenges to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law. Brook said he’s going to point to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond (the precedents of which apply to North Carolina), show the judge that court’s decision in the recent Bostic v. Schaefer case and then just sit down.

It’s an obvious strategy — namely, that the ruling striking down Virginia’s discrimination law in Bostic is right on point and there really isn’t much that a North Carolina federal judge can do but abide by it.

This is why Attorney General Cooper made his recent announcement that he would stop wasting North Carolina taxpayers’ money by trying to defend North Carolina’s indefensible law.  It would be a futile and costly gesture — not unlike attempting to defend a law that banned interracial marriage.

Of course, as Sharon McCloskey’s story immediately below makes plain, this patently obvious logic is apparently lost on Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis who are, quite remarkably (if one of Berger’s members is to be believed), taking steps to impeach Cooper over his utterly reasonable, constitutional and ethically-bound decision.

By all indications, Berger and Tillis simply want Cooper to tilt at the Bostic windmill and manufacture insipid, sure-fire-loser arguments as is being tried in a few other states. Today, we got a good idea of what some of those arguments would look like when the folks at ThinkProgress published a handy list of The 10 Craziest Arguments Two States Are Using to Defeat Marriage Equality.” This is from the post: Read More

Uncategorized

Sanderson-CooperState Sen. Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico) told those attending the inaugural meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort Tea Party yesterday that the top leadership in both GOP-controlled branches of the legislature are working to remove Attorney General Roy Cooper from office, according to this report in The Carteret County News-Times.

Citing Cooper’s announcement in late July that his office would no longer defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban after the Fourth Circuit found Virginia’s similar law unconstitutional, Sanderson said:

“If he’s not going to defend what we, the citizens of North Carolina, want him to defend, we need to probably impeach him because he’s been a vocal opponent of the marriage amendment ever since it was passed.”

He added that steps are in place once Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis give the green light.

“Our leadership hasn’t made the final decision but everything is on ready, set, go if that’s what we want to do.”

Of course, doing what some lawmakers and citizens of the state want him to do is not the job of the Attorney General.

Here’s Jim Tierney, former Maine Attorney General and now director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School:

The simple truth is that attorney general refusal to defend happens all the time.

Legislatures are comprised in most states by non-lawyers trying to do the right thing, but they do not understand the complexity of constitutional limits. They are advised, but often plunge ahead — both liberals and conservatives — and make constitutional mistakes. It then falls to the attorney general to clean this mess up.

The attorney general is supposed to uphold the constitution – that’s his job.

And you want your attorney general telling the truth. If the attorney general in his view says ‘you’ve got some real constitutional issues here,’ I would think any governor would want to know that before he signs a bill.

 

 

Uncategorized

love is loveAs this post on SCOTUSblog reminds us, same-sex marriage cases are now pending in five federal appeals courts, including one in the Fourth Circuit, Bostic v. Schaefer, which was argued in Richmond in May.

How the three-judge panel will rule in Bostic, which deals with Virginia’s same sex marriage law, is not clear cut, according to court-watchers.  From the argument, Judge Roger L. Gregory is apparently leaning toward opposing the ban, with Judge  Paul V. Niemeyer supporting the ban and Judge Henry F. Floyd wavering in the middle.

A ruling in that case, though, may be binding on similar cases in North Carolina, including Fisher-Borne v. Smith and Gerber v. Cooper, both pending in federal court in Winston-Salem,  General Synod v. Cooper, pending in federal court in Charlotte, and McCrory v. North Carolina, pending in federal court in Asheville.

For that reason, magistrate judges in three of the cases have stayed proceedings until a decision is rendered in Bostic and are considering a stay in the fourth (General Synod).

But plaintiffs in Fisher-Borne and Gerber are not waiting patiently for that ruling, saying they have waited long enough. In each of those cases, certain plaintiffs have asked the court to block enforcement of the state’s ban so that their marriages can be recognized and the couples can gain the rights afforded other married couples.

For example, in Fisher-Borne, a couple with a son who has cerebral palsy are unable to get the medical care he needs because state law does not recognize the partner with more comprehensive health insurance as his parent.

In Gerber, plaintiffs with serious illnesses in advanced stages have spouses and in one case a child who will be unable to receive benefits typically afforded spouses and children should those plaintiffs die.

As they argue in their brief to the court:

While this case is stalled, Ms. Mejia cannot establish a legal relationship with her son. Each day, J.G.-M. misses out on the benefits that would be conferred to him as Ms. Mejia‘s legal child, and each Plaintiff continues to suffer from the stigma and indignities that result from the North Carolina‘ ban on same-sex marriage. The need for recognition of their marriages is all the more pressing in light of Plaintiffs‘ circumstances. Dr. Berlin is 89 years old and suffers from complex seizures and blood clots that cannot be treated. Ms. Blackburn is 66 years old and has Stage IV cancer. Ms. Mejia, a war veteran, suffers from cancer and currently lives with significant lung damage and a replacement liver that requires her to take immunosuppressive drugs. In light of their ages and medical conditions, Dr. Berlin, Ms. Gerber, and Ms. Mejia each have a substantial fear that she might pass away before her marriage is recognized by North Carolina, depriving her forever of the dignity and social recognition that state recognition affords. If Ms. Mejia passes away, J.G.-M. would also be deprived of the important benefits that flow to children, particularly to children of veterans, by virtue of legal parentage. Each Plaintiff also fears—based on experience—that her right to care for her spouse in medical emergencies will be denied because North Carolina refuses to recognize their marriage.